Less Than a Hundred Days of Summer

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Chapter 15

It's only been a day, but it felt like eternity. They have not been separated for that long ever since they had met. Giselle could not even wait by the phone, because she did not have one that worked. So she stared out the window, like a soldier's wife, jumping at every random sound from the street, hoping that any minute Tae Soo would walk into the door.

"What are you doing?" Her Dad returned after running an errand and found her in this frozen state.

"I miss him, Daddy."

"He called me. He said he would be coming once he is finished. I think he is meeting with that reporter."

"I know he will take care of things, but I still miss him."

"Snap out of it! I bought us some beer and I am making my famous soup."

"The one I don't like?" She cringed. "Don't."

"Oh, you will like this one. It is your favorite." The man's mischievous smile gave her hope.

It was fun to drink with her father, their strange bonding experience reaching new heights. Both a bit drunk, they were after all related, slurring and making silly jokes, like a mirror reflections of each other. Alcohol gave both of them courage to continue with honest questions they never dared to pose before.

"What went wrong with you and Mom?"

"Did not she tell you?"

"I want to hear from you, Dad. I grew up thinking that you did not want to take care of us. That you dropped your responsibilities and conveniently returned when I was too old to be parented."

"No, sweetie. It was not about you. I was young and we fought a lot. I just did not get along with your mother anymore."

"Did not you love her?"

"Of course, I loved her. I loved her when we get married."

"Still you got divorced." She said bitterly.

"When you are in love you don't think that it will end. But when two people have to share a life together, live side by side... Well, not everybody can get along. At your age, love seems like everything. And it should be."

"But it is not everything. Is it?" She murmured, taking another sip from her bottle. She was a bit drunk, but in this state, some things were shaping more clearly then when she was sober. She had too many examples of broken families and ruined relationships to ignore all the warning signs, yet, Tae Soo's last long look into her eyes was still freshly imprinted into her memory. There were things that seemed important and there were things that actually were important. She banked her trust in the latter.

A sense of excitement and comfort enshrouded Giselle. She turned languidly in her sleep, her mouth opening up as if to welcome a drop of freshness of the entering morning. She smiled, every tiny muscle in her face relaxing as a cascade of happiness passed through her body. Her ear tickled, then her neck, then collarbone. A rustle of the familiar fragrant wind played against her skin, and she ran her fingers to dull the tantalizing sensations, which brought her closer to awakening.

She had the most wonderful dream:

Tae Soo and her were on the airplane. They were flying first class, just like she had seen in the movies. He pointed down out the window – "This is my motherland. It's pretty, is not it?"

Giselle leaned to see closer through the passing clouds: panorama of the mountainous and hilly regions, interspersed with thin veins of rivers and blue eyes of the lakes dotting the land, embraced by the sea surrounding it on the sides with a few brownish spots of the islands sticking their noses out of the water. It was beautiful, indeed. Another kind of beauty, more northern, more reserved compared to the lavish and bright Caribbean.

"I love you, thank you for coming with me." A shudder of his touch and she held her breath as his lips whispered. She felt his long arms wrap tenderly around her and his cheek nuzzle against hers. "Giselle," he whispered again and again, reveling in her name.

She blushed, shy even in this dream-state, she wondered at the vivid smell of his cologne, which she came to associate with Tae Soo's proximity. His scent was a mixture of his natural one, unique to him and the cosmetic products he used routinely. The cologne mingled seamlessly with the pleasant masculine aroma of his skin, adding that extra sexy kick she enjoyed to inhale deeply, burying her nose into his chest.

Another soft call of her name and she felt the haze of the space in between arousal and sleep slowly lift. She woke up a few minutes later and yelped in surprise staring directly into his almond eyes. She blinked a few times and rubbed her eyes, only to open them again and meet his. They were smiling. Twinkling even. She could call it a sparkle.

"You looked like you had a good dream," he explained his silence.

Giselle blinked again, rubbing her eyes. So the scent was not a dream, then what about what he had said? "When did you get here?"

"Not long ago. I could not sleep. I missed you, so I left early. Wanted to say good morning in person." He rearranged her hair behind the ear, clearing it off her face. "Come here." Tae Soo hugged her, filling himself with the sweet sleepy warmth of her body, smiling silly with joy. This unnecessary separation played tricks with his mind. He could barely sleep, tossing and turning, thinking about her, missing her, wishing to see and touch her, wanting to kiss her soft lips.

She hugged him back, still confused whether what he had said was a dream or reality. "Did you say anything before, when I was asleep?"

Tae Soo did not answer, only stroking her hair and then found her lips to place a moist kiss. Passion swirled inside her and Giselle swiftly forgot about the questions that bothered her.

every precious moment of being undisturbed and left alone.

"We have to talk," he started, a darker and serious color shading his almond eyes.

"About what?" she asked innocently. What was there to talk about? They just had one of the hottest make out sessions ever – heart does grow fonder with distance! And she was still a bit off balance, her mind mushy and pleasantly emptied.

"I have to tell you about the reporter and I have to explain to you why I did what I did."

"You don't have to. I already forgave you. Although you should have talked to me first, but it was a crisis, so no explanation is needed."

"But Giselle," he took her hands, urgently wanting her to listen. "We need to discuss this. You are absolutely right. I should have asked your opinion. And you have to know your options. I will do whatever you decide."

"I don't want to talk about it."

He was baffled. She was the most confusing woman in the universe, at least in his universe. She was mad before because he did not discuss anything with her, but now was refusing to even listen to him.

"Giselle, what is it?" He inquired gently.

She lowered her eyes solemnly and then explained, "I want to hide a bit longer. Won't you hide with me?"

"So you want to ignore everything?"

"Pretty much."


"No buts. Just be with me."

Tae Soo honestly tried a number of times to start up the conversation with her about the reporter and the whole issue behind what had occurred, but she continued to be steadfast in her denial and avoidance, ultimately immobilizing any of his attempts. Eventually, the actor gave up. She obviously felt strongly enough about it, and since he handled the reporter, he was not foreseeing any more trouble on the horizon. She had her reasons, he was sure, and it appeared that it was some kind of test for him, which he was determined to pass.

every precious moment of being undisturbed and left alone.

They decided to stay for a couple more days at the cottage. The time was filled with magic, casting forgetfulness spell: reporter who? what scandal? - neither of them allowed even one word or a thought to trickle in. Tae Soo honored her request and Giselle was determined to have their unplanned retreat memorable and romantic.

The mountain area was covered in a mystical fog. Before the sunrise touched the foggy air with its warming rays, Tae Soo's senses were enchanted by the smell of freshly brewed local coffee and cheerful bird twittering. Waking up curled around Giselle, he would welcome a fairytale sunrise: the red circle majestically appearing on top of the cloudy mountain peak, spreading soft red across the glowing skies rapidly, only to be filtered through the gentle lace of the rainy haze. The day moseyed while the couple entertained themselves with horse riding and mountain hiking to the many secluded waterfalls and untouched hidden corners of the forest. And as the evening glided in smoothly, the sound of coqui cricketing rhythmically accompanied the nightfall, to some annoying, but to the lovers lost in time - only a lullaby.

"I think I could stay here forever," he admitted. "It is away from everybody and everything. I can buy this house and we can just live in it together till we..." he stopped before saying something corny like 'become old and gray'. It sounded like talking about the future, and per their agreement, he was not supposed to.

"So you like hiding out with me?"

"I do, of course, but eventually, we will have to return."

Giselle did not say anything, only pressed herself closer to him, keeping the cocoon of his affection intact around her, savoring every precious moment of being undisturbed and left alone.

It was cold and very stormy. Light and constant drizzle of rain mixed with the cold wind promised no possibility of stopping till midnight. Sun was sucked into the darkness, struggling to break through and was clearly losing its fight against the powerful hands of the black clouds. Unlike a hurricane, the storm was not dangerous, but felt unpleasantly oppressive with a heavy damp feeling that hovered over the exposed villages and cities.

They barely made inside, having been caught in the storm during one of their excursions. In fact, they were planning to go home tonight, but with the weather not letting on, Giselle complained about being stuck on the mountain for another day.

Pouting and grumbling, she was incredibly cute and Tae Soo looked at her with adoring eyes and a quiet smile. "Let me dry your hair. You will get sick like that."

"But it is summer rain." She dismissed with ease.

"Rain is still cold. Look, your face is all wet." He carefully dabbed her skin with the corner of the fluffy towel as she shivered from the humid rush of cold air.

"I'll turn on the fireplace."

"Wait," she cupped his face, which also had droplets off water sliding down from his long bangs, covering his eyes. She pushed aside the wet strands of hair and ran her fingers along the arches of his brows, drying and straightening them.

"That's better," she smiled softly, picking up another errant raindrop off his cheek. She met his eyes. And his hands slowly let go of the towel. Instead, he took her face gently wrapping it with his fingers and looked at her deeply, even obsessively to make her widen eyes; anxiety locked inside her chest and she stopped mid breath.

He had so much unspoken emotion in his eyes, it was overwhelming. And at that moment, Giselle realized that he loved her. A famous and popular, romantic star of the Asian movie industry, incomparable, one and only Lee Tae Soo loved her. Before she could digest what it actually meant, the king of chemistry dipped his beautifully full, heart shaped lips to kiss hers.

His tongue grazed hers and she shuddered. His kiss was passionate and aggressive, possessive without question, something he usually restricted. He allowed his desire to be known. He wanted to have her appreciate the potency behind his feeling, the force with which it coursed inside of him and ignited every time she was near. He had to let her know, short of screaming "I love you" and this was the best he could do. He invaded her mouth and devoured her lips, his teeth tugged at her, and sweet effervescence drifted down her back and trickled toward her navel. Her knees buckled receiving the same jolt of lightness, and she melted into his strong embrace, familiar sense of losing time surrounded her as the magic of Tae Soo's kissing worked on her body.

Snuggled on the sofa, Giselle was caringly covered with a throw. Her wet clothes drying in the bathroom, she was wearing her favorite puppy populated pajamas. She felt very cozy and enveloped in warmth that reached inside of her, melting over her body and causing her erupt in an uncontrollable smile. She was not asleep, but she was too snuggly and lazy to keep her eyes open. Yet, she could feel Tae Soo's gaze washing over her. The warmth she felt was not from the blanket or the flannel she wore, it was from the love that was tangible through all the layers that covered her. The light in his almond eyes was shining brightly and it was shining upon her. It was the sense of safety he always managed to create around him, the sense of being protected and taken care of. She wanted to be in his arms, held tightly forever... She loved him as much. She needed him and she loved him.

Giselle moved to where the heat of his body was and he sensed her wishes. Her head was laid on his chest, she felt the muscles flexing as his limbs wrapped around, his lips touched her sweetly and she faded into his heartbeat, the most soothing sound on the planet for her.

every precious moment of being undisturbed and left alone.

Giselle was watching his steady breathing, admiring the chiseled angles of his face. Rain continued to pound on the small cottage, and for once she appreciated little gifts of forced seclusion the incumbent weather offered them.

When they were separated, she thought a lot about how she felt. She was confused and scared about how different and more dangerous his world was. How treacherous were the waters where he treaded. Maybe, she had a death wish, but she wanted to drown in the depth of Tae Soo's chocolate eyes. She always did, if she stared into them longer than a moment, but it had become addictive and almost necessary for her to actually survive. Others would call it planned suicide, but for her it was the most certain way to live.

The sky is dark and rain is falling hard... the only thing that matters now is your warmth. I can hide against your skin from all the disasters in the world, and drink from the coffee of your eyes to keep me going. I will not stop seeking you and if I turn away, stop me. Don't let me. Tae Soo, I love you.

She wrote her confession on the napkin and put it beside him. She did not have the courage to say it, but if he knew her true heart, he would do as she asked.

Tae Soo looked so peaceful... If he has to deal with her outside of the doors of this cottage, if he has to return from this mountain down to reality – would he be at peace? Giselle's resolve slowly wavered as she hummed a sad tune, while preparing a fresh cup of coffee. She decided to live it up to him. After all, he had a lot more to lose than her.

"Coffee?" she said, placing the cup next to the napkin.

"Did I fall asleep?" he murmured, eyes still closed. "Smells so good." He smiled and his hand searched for the caffeinated elixir. His fingers touched the rim of the ceramic mug and he produced another smile. He lazily moved to seat up, briefly ungluing his eyelids just enough to bring the cup over to his lips, and sipping slowly, closed them again enjoying the aroma.

"You like it?"

"I love it," he said, defiantly flinging his long eyelashes to look at her with the eyes that were clear and bright, not a trace of sleep. He made sure to catch her gaze and maintain the connection. Taking slow sips he continued his silent love making with his eyes, as Giselle blushed deeper and deeper till the scarlet red of her cheeks felt like it caught on fire, yet she could not turn away or rather did not want to. Slowly he started to lean forward, closer and closer, and she felt her body mimicking his, the distance closing between them...

The only obstacle preventing the inescapable collision was the steaming coffee cup. Right before Giselle bumped into it, Tae Soo moved to put it down and... his arm missed just a millimeter, bumping the cup on the edge of the table. The hot liquid splashing down onto Tae Soo's exposed skin...

Only he felt nothing - his arm shoved aside and quickly covered by Giselle's hand, taking the brunt of the scorching coffee spill.

"Be careful!" Yelled Giselle, her reflexes faster than her words, the pain from the burn alerting her senses as the cup loudly clunked falling over the corner and onto the rug. She jolted her hand away, tears prickling her eyes, she stared blankly at a large brown stain, which was quickly saturating the fabric.

Tae Soo watched in horror for one very long second it took him to comprehend what had just happened. In sheer panic, he grabbed the napkin to wipe her hand, but she pulled it away in pain. "Ouch! Ouch!" She quickly glanced at the burn mark: luckily, the area affected was small and did not blister.

His heart racing and his mind replaying prior seconds on a loop, he dragged her toward the bathroom and stuck her hand under the cold stream of soothing water. "Let's wash it," he produced in an eerie calm conjured in crisis. Only when the redness began to fade, did his caring eyes turn upset. "What were you thinking? Don't you have any sense? What possessed you to push me and get burned? I would have been fine!"

Giselle looked up at him wordlessly, her eyes slowly feeling with tears. She did not know why she acted like a fool. But when she thought he might get hurt, she did not hesitate. Of course it was silly, it's not like she had to jump into fire to save his life. It was a little thing, and the whole incident was not a big deal, no worse than getting burned when cooking. Tae Soo realized he overreacted, nevertheless his anger and fear for her safety was real and he hated that he caused her to be hurt, even if it was not a huge medical emergency.

"I'm sorry, I raised my voice," he said softly, kissing her and hugging. "I'm an idiot. Instead of thanking, I scream... You just don't get it, do you?" He added emphatically pulling away and staring intently at her.

"I do," she mumbled. "You don't get it either."

"Aish!" He crumbled the napkin he still held in his hand and threw it into the trashcan. "You are so frustrating, Giselle. Promise you will never do anything like that again."

"I can't," she whispered lowering her head stubbornly, surprising even herself with the answer.

He was getting more and more infuriated by her carelessness. Her body was more precious to him, than his own, and if he were in her shoes, he would have done the same without a second thought. Why did she..? The realization struck him like lightning and he froze for a moment, trying to confirm this guess, his heart trembling in excitement and apprehension.

"Then I can't promise not to scream at you again." He pulled her tightly again, caressing her hair. "I'll go to the pharmacy and get some burn cream. Keep your hand under the water till I come back."

"OK." She briefly glanced at him, growing embarrassed. She stood for a while by the sink as he told her. The pain had long subsided, but she was immobilized, not able to get her mind off the napkin with her love letter. With all the craziness, she forgot that he might not even have a chance to find it.

Her heart galloped anxiously as she looked for the dreaded piece of paper everywhere. Something vague flashed in her mind and she recalled how he grabbed it off the table to tend to her. She looked on the couch, and underneath on the rug, and by the small table. The napkin was gone.

"I'm back," called Tae Soo at the door. He was wet from the rain, but happy to return quickly.

Giselle looked at him listlessly.

"What's wrong?" He took her hand, gently applying the cream, as she continued to sit with a fallen face. "Are you in so much pain? Are you mad I was gone for so long?"

"No. Did you see a napkin on the table?"

"A napkin? Probably. I threw something in the trash. Why?"

"Just... it's nothing." Giselle stared at the floor. She was a hopeless dreamer, just a provincial girl with romantic aspirations. Who writes a confession on a napkin and puts it under a coffee cup? If she had stuck to their agreement not to speak of their feelings, she would not be in this emotional limbo. Keeping the relationship light and pressure free would work out much better for both of them. His world, her world, reporters, fans, her family, this island – they don't mix. She should enjoy the summer. It will be enough of a treasured memory to last a lifetime.

Author's musings:

This is one of my favorite chapters; it started with a love poem and a description of a storm and evolved into this. In my impatience, I am posting it today, probably condemning myself and the readers to a longer wait till the next part is ready for posting.

Dear Callie, Wendy, Darcydevenus, Lobster123, Leavesfallingup - thank you guys for continuing to read the story, despite it spanning more than 30 chapters now. The content of this chapter might have been a surprise or not, depending on what you were expecting. But I felt like TS and Giselle needed just a bit extra alone time.

As usual, eager to get your feedback and of course, would love to hear from the rest of readers. Please don't forget to leave reviews.

The car engine splattered to a pause, the windows were rolled up and the radio was turned off.

"We are home."

They looked very much like a couple returning home from vacation: a bit exhausted from the road, but overall refreshed and happy to have had a time away together.

"At last." Giselle smiled at him and unbuckled. She closed her eyes for a moment, remaining in her seat as Tae Soo got out and came around to open the door for her, in his usual gentlemanly style.

She thought of how organically comfortable they had become over a few short months together. He had been driving her car a lot and was used to it as if his own. They barely needed to exchange words to know what the other was thinking. Quickly they fell into a daily routine that was only interrupted by a crisis as of late. The reporter's appearance prompted them both to reevaluate what was important and despite not having expressed their feelings verbally, the loving bond between them was strengthened during the trip to Utuado.

Oh, well. Down from the clouds and onto the solid ground – they have arrived. She took his hand and stepped out of the car.

"I'll get the bags."

"OK." She stared at the house, friendly sparkling with its glass façade as if winking in welcome. She missed it already. How come she was not missing her own place? With everything going on she has not bothered for weeks to check on the progress of repairs. Come to think of it, her father did not mention anything either. Without much enthusiasm, she made a mental check to follow up. That thought put a damper on her otherwise agreeable mood.

Tae Soo's trip was supposed to end by the beginning of fall, and as he flew back to Korea, she would have to go back to her old life, including moving to her old apartment. She used to think it was cozy and held all the essentials she needed to be happy, but now that she had lived with Tae Soo, it was hard to imagine how she would fill the gloomy emptiness without the light he brought to her life. Even if she shrunk her tiny place to nothing, there would still be a glaring hole where he once was. She let out a loud sigh and looked up at her favorite person in the world with a smile, as his warm hand landed on her shoulder. "Ready?"

She nodded. Next to him she was ready for anything.

"Hey guys, what's up?"

"Rico?" They both exclaimed in surprise and annoyance.

"I brought a guest. He wanted to meet you, Giselle, since you are the girlfriend of Mr. Most Likable Male Star over here." Mr. Jerk appeared as if from thin air and next to him there was none other than the reporter, barely able to contain a smirk.

Tae Soo did not even bother to get mad at Mr. Jerk. The guy was obviously an idiot and he did not expect anything less from him, but the reporter!

"Ms. Gonzalez, I presume. I just have one question."

Tae Soo instinctively stepped in front of her, his blood boiling in his veins rapidly, protective instincts kicking in and fight response in full mode. "Yeogiseo dodaeche mwohaneun geoya?" He gritted, flashing his eyes ominously.

"Hello Lee Tae Soo-shi," the man leaked his venom with a smile.

"Yah, sakki!" The actor no longer cared for appearances. That was definitely his first time swearing in public. "You f&%g son of a b*^$!" He continued spewing what was clearly some topnotch Korean cursing, making even the reporter cringe in discomfort.

Tae Soo deliberately spoke in Korean, not wanting Giselle to be involved as long as he could hold off the attack, while frantically calculating in his mind countermoves.

He thought he did good. He thought he acted prudently and with a clear head. How could he have been mistaken so gravely? "Ulineun geolaeleul haessda!"

"We did. We had a deal." The reporter intentionally responded in English. "But a better offer came. It's not personal, it's business, you understand."

Giselle, witnessing the exchange, was caught by complete surprise. She quickly surmised that the man Tae Soo was yelling at in Korean was the reporter and the person who had brought him was one in a million, unrivaled in the worst timing department, Mr. Jerk.

Unbeknown to herself, she switched to Spanish. What she had to say and express had no proper equivalent in English. She guessed in passing that it was probably very similar to the kind of vocabulary Tae Soo was using in Korean, based on the heated tone and sauciness of the articulated punctuation marks after pretty much every word he barked and growled at the reporter, who stood taking the verbal punches with an expression that said: I've heard it all; bring it on; nothing will deter me.

Rico, on the other hand, was not himself. He stood silently next to his partner in crime; an unwilling participant in the ambush, looking so lost, he was pitiful. He thought he was doing a good job helping Giselle in his backwards attempt to propel her to her minute of fame as a girlfriend of a star. He had not opened his mouth in his defense and his usual cockiness was nowhere to be found.

So here they were: a clashing chorus of languages and cultures, screaming words catapulted – fire and passion - an unstoppable combustible combination of the couple who was ultimately fighting for its right to exist.

As Giselle dumped an expertly constructed sequence of the most poignant insults on Rico's head, her temper slowly simmered down from the boiling point and she paused for second to take a breath. Tae Soo chose the same moment for his break as well. They both met eyes and then glowered back at their respective recipients of verbal barrage.

The reporter quickly jumped at the chance. "I just want to ask one question. Ms. Gonzalez, can I ask you a question?"

"Don't speak with him," Said Tae Soo, reaching out his arm to hold her hand. "Don't you dare speak with that bastard."

"Is he the reporter?" She asked more to confirm the fact.

"He is and now he is breaking the deal we made."

"Ms. Gonzalez, are the rumors that you are a lesbian true? Then what is the nature of your relationship with Mr. Lee Tae Soo?"

What had occurred next was the sweetest payback anybody could wish for.

Rico punched the reporter in the nose. The man screamed out in pain, as the blood gushed from the injured part. He was obviously in shock and before he could react, Rico attacked him with all his might. "She is not a lesbian! She is not!"

Both Tae Soo and Giselle did not move a muscle as Mr. Jerk crushed his fists into the reporter's body, like he was kneading soft dough.

"Save me! " Called the poor victim of his own greed, who chose his informant unwisely this time. "Tae Soo-shi, please, stop him." The man begged and pleaded in his native tongue, uselessly choosing which part of him to protect first, opting out for intermittent coverage of his face and genitals from the aimed blows of Mr. Jerk, who unleashed his unfettered fury on anybody who offended Giselle's honor.

Tae Soo found his humanity being squashed by the prior unknown thirst for revenge and punishment without absolution. He had to step in before the man's life was in danger, but he was not in a rush.

"I can say the word, but I just can't bring myself to. I think that when I return to Korea, I will write to my regional representative requesting to have a special legal dispensation for the extermination of scum like you. Perhaps list them as pests or disease carriers and put them in isolation from the rest of the population." He recited his thoughts out loud without hurry.

And for pests, an exterminator was the method of choice. Rico was perfect for the job. For once his propensity for violence was rewarded, not looked down upon. The actor was not stopping him and in Rico's blinded by righteous anger mind a doubt started to grow. As if to confuse him even further, at that very moment, the reporter suddenly began crying.

Giselle was holding herself back from rescuing the miserable victim, fueled by the same unrestrained rage that seemed to have consumed both of the men who were trying to protect her, each in their way. His pathetic slobbering woke her up from the position of indifference. "Stop it, Rico! Stop it immediately!"

Against his will, Tae Soo reached to grab the Latin hothead, holding him firmly. "That's enough. Stop it," he said calmly, "He is not worth it."

The reporter babbled not very believable 'thank you' through sniffles. Tae Soo helped him up and checked him over, shaking his head in concern. "I think I will have to take you to the hospital. This does not look good. Your nose seems to be broken."

The reporter touched the bridge of his nose and shrilled in pain. The fear in his eyes started to transform into outrage toward his abuser. "I will sue you. I will make sure you go to jail!"

His threats had little impact on Mr. Jerk, who had come out of more than one fight unscathed and friendly with the local police. He was not below admitting that he went a little overboard, though, and simply responded, "Sorry, man. I just don't like when my girl is called a lesbian."

"Sorry? Sorry? Lee Tae Soo-shi, call the police. You will be the witness."

"You call them," grumbled Tae Soo, starting to feel guilty about waiting too long to save this undeserving piece of garbage, who at least in appearance was a human being. "Let's go."

He loaded the reporter into the car and returned to Giselle. "I'm going to call your father, I don't think you should be alone now. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Giselle weakly attempted to protest, but quickly surrendered to his caring assertiveness.

Rico awkwardly stood to the side, as Giselle glared at him. Only now the gravity of the situation finally hit her: All of this was because of her. She was in the center of it all – both Tae Soo and Rico acted in the process of defending the woman they cared about.

Of course, Rico had no place or right to even be here. Obviously in his misguided attempt to help her, he was duped by the reporter into spilling the beans and his tendency for swinging his fists before thinking was not news to her either. She ought to kick his ass herself!

She did not condone violence, but watching Tae Soo stand by and not interfere scared her. Because of her, he turned into this cruel person who allowed another human being to be mulled by an irate Neanderthal. She was too overwhelmed and too confused to even began to sort out through her feelings.

"Giselle, I did not know it would cause you trouble. The guy said he just wanted some information. It seemed harmless at the time. He was nice and friendly. To tell you the truth, I was jealous of you and Tae Soo and wanted to put him on the spot. I did not think..."

"That's right! You did not! Do you ever? Just leave." She waved at him indolently. Her body felt heavy and battered, any traces of rest from her getaway were wiped out clean within a matter of minutes. She dragged her feet a few annoyingly long meters to the door and deposited herself on the couch. She sat, staring emptily at the wall till the tension clew of every little thing that has been bothering her started to unravel. Rolling herself around the pillow she sobbed into it softly till her father finally showed up.

Her father was anything, but plain. He always managed to provide a distraction and pinch of comic relief even in the direst circumstances. He did not disappoint today either.

"Daughter. Open the door!"

Giselle looked out of the window and gasped from horror and admiration merging in one big "Mother of sweet Jesus!"

Mr. Gonzalez was unloading his trunk. He took out a rifle and a box with something that Giselle could only imagine was some kind of weaponry and ammunition. On both sides he was flanked by two gorilla-looking soldiers, the kind that are typecast as bodyguards of some murderous dictator from a small African country. The three of them marched to the door and as her father entered, they stood guard, saluting her "ma-am" before she quickly shut the door and closed all the locks. Her back fell against the wall and she finally exclaimed, "Dad. I think you have outdone yourself this time. Is there a canon somewhere behind the bushes or Kalashnikov under your jacket?"

"I don't need them," he responded dead serious. "I just felt that extra precaution won't hurt anybody."

"Dad, that reporter – he is no threat. Rico turned him into a cowering pulp with one punch to the nose. Please, I don't like guns. Can you take them back into the car?"

Her father softened his features and smiled at her. "It's kind of more for me. I know I won't be shooting anybody, but I missed packing some heat."

Giselle softly laughed – where else on earth is there a man like her father? You've got to love him or go crazy with him!

"Who is Rico?"

"That guy I told you about. The one I used to sort of date before Tae Soo. You know, cousin Franco's friend?"

"Ah, that guy. I can see him throwing a good punch." Nodded her father. Only now he noticed fresh tear trails on Giselle's cheeks and her red and swollen eyes from all the crying. "Baby," he put down the weapon and hugged his child. "Is it that bad?"

"Daddy, it's hard. It's all my fault."

"What is hard?"

"I love him. But I'm not sure what to do anymore. If we are together. Together together, in real life, am I going to cause him jobs or popularity? He is really famous."

"What's is wrong with my beautiful daughter? Is he not treating you right?"

Giselle glanced over to the counter with the rifle and hurried to dissuade her trigger happy father, "No, no, Daddy. He treats me like a queen. He has never done anything bad. What I'm worried about is the future, not the present. Can I live a life with him? You know how you said that everyday life is different? I'm just a girl from the island, I don't even have a job. I don't speak his language well. I look different and I'm probably 10 sizes more than an average Korean woman."

"Then you make a decision. If you can't handle it, don't hurt yourself or him. Like I said, I like your narrow-eyed skinny boyfriend."

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